College Counselor Christine Asmussen guides our students and families through the college application process. Here is her guide to applying to college.

AFFORDING COLLEGE: When should I start looking for scholarships?

Start looking for scholarship opportunities the summer before your senior year.

Be aware of deadlines and begin to prepare application materials. The overwhelming bulk of awards received by our graduates come directly from the colleges. Be sure to inquire about scholarship criteria when you visit or contact a college. Check out the links on NAVIANCE.

Do not wait to see what you get from college financial aid offers before you begin applying for private scholarships. Students should start in the spring or summer preceding their senior year and apply for any scholarship that seems appropriate. Check out scholarships linked to church membership, place of employment, and any credit union to which you may belong.

Finding Financial Aid Info, Scholarship and, Loan Opportunities

The www.finaid.org and www.fastweb.com are excellent free resources for scholarship information. For information about state-specific financial aid programs, go to the NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) website and click on your state.

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship is available to Tennessee residents, attending a 4-year institution in Tennessee, who have 21 ACT (980 SAT) or a 3.0 GPA. Students must enroll within sixteen months after high school graduation.

Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college to Tennessee residents. Students must apply on the website by November 1 of their senior year and fulfill the outlined requirements to be eligible.

ACADEMIC COMMON MARKET makes degree programs not available to students in their home state available at member institutions at the in-state tuition rate. Tennessee residents have access to 116 programs through the Common Market.

SCHOLARSHIP SEARCHES/SCAMS
Be wary of mailings inviting you to financial aid workshops. Do not pay for scholarship/financial aid searches. You can access the same information at no cost by going to one of several websites.

AFFORDING COLLEGE: Are public colleges cheaper?

THE TRUE COST OF PRIVATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

  • Private colleges and universities have higher costs of attendance but they may also have scholarship and financial aid programs that bring the net price down to less than that at a public university.
  • Many of the more highly selective private colleges and universities do not offer merit scholarships. All financial aid is “need-based”.
  • Private colleges and universities do not charge “out of state” fees. The cost of attendance is the same for all students.
  • Financial need can sometimes affect admissions decisions at some private colleges and universities. Ask if the school is need-blind or need-aware.
  • With rising costs, many schools are no longer able to cover an applicant’s full demonstrated financial need (“gapping”). Ask about this.
  • Some small private colleges in states bordering Tennessee will match the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship award that student would receive if enrolled in a Tennessee institution.

THE TRUE COST OF PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

  • Public universities charge an out-of-state fee which raises the cost of attending a public university outside of your home state.
  • Public universities offer merit scholarships for students with top test scores and GPAs and may waive out-of-state fees. Check their websites for qualifying criteria.
  • Need-based aid at public colleges and universities is often limited to federally-funded programs (Pell Grant, Work-Study, loans).

AFFORDING COLLEGE: What can I afford?

FAFSA,the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is required of all students who apply for financial aid and/or Tennessee residents who want to be considered for the Tennessee Hope Scholarship and/or the Tennessee Promise program. The U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA4caster helps students and families to calculate an estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC), investigate Pell Grant eligibility, and complete preliminary work to save you time when you complete the FAFSA in the fall. You may also import your 2015 income data from the IRS website to do a “practice” FAFSA. This is the data that will be used by the 2017-18 FAFSA (available Oct. 1, 2016). Some colleges have financial aid estimators available on their websites.

AFFORDING COLLEGE: Where can I find scholarship info?

The www.finaid.org site is an excellent free resources for scholarship information. For information about state-specific financial aid programs, go to the NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) website and click on your state.

Be wary of mailings inviting you to financial aid workshops. Do not pay for scholarship/financial aid searches. You can access the same information at no cost by going to one of several websites.

AFFORDING COLLEGE: Special opportunities for Tennessee residents

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship is available to Tennessee residents, attending a 4-year institution in Tennessee, who have 21 ACT (980 SAT) or a 3.0 GPA. Students must enroll within sixteen months after high school graduation.

Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college to Tennessee residents. Students must apply on the website by November 1 of their senior year and fulfill the outlined requirements to be eligible.

ACADEMIC COMMON MARKET makes degree programs not available to students in their home state available at member institutions at the in-state tuition rate. Tennessee residents have access to 116 programs through the Common Market.

COLLEGE VISITS: Do I need to go?

Campus visits are crucial. Seniors may apply for a college leave in the fall but you should do as much as possible the summer before your senior year. The students who have the most difficulty with making decisions about schools are those who have not visited any campuses. Even a "bad" visit can be productive in that it helps you to identify what you do not want in a school. If something you want to see is not included on the tour, it is quite appropriate to request to see it.

COLLEGE VISITS: Should I take the official tour?

“Level of interest,” often gauged by a physical visit to the campus, is sometimes a factor in admissions decisions, particularly at more selective schools and especially in cases in which an applicant may be borderline. For this reason, it is very important to schedule an interview/information session and an official tour as part of your campus visit, especially at selective private institutions. If you do not have time for both the info session and the tour, do the tour. If you do tour with a friend, be sure that the admissions staff knows that you have been on campus.

COLLEGE VISITS: How do I schedule a visit?

  1. Go to the college’s admissions page.
  2. Call the Admissions Office for an appointment for a campus tour, info session and/or interview or schedule one on-line.
  3. Ask if there is an admissions counselor assigned to our school/region and get that person’s name and contact info. This info is often available on the admissions page of the school website.

Money Saving Tip: Ask the admissions office visit coordinator or receptionist if any of the local motels give a special rate for college visitors and be sure to ask for that discount when you make your reservations. Sometimes there are recommendations for local accommodations on the admissions page of the institution’s website.

COLLEGE VISITS: Should my parents go?

It’s best if parents can accompany students on college visits since this is a decision that affects the whole family. It will enable them to be more helpful in discussing merits and shortcomings of different schools with you. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions about financial aid.

COLLEGE VISITS: What should I wear?

College dress culture varies from school to school, but generally you will find that summer tours are casual. SAS School Dress will always be appropriate.

COLLEGE VISITS: What should I look for when I visit?

  • Note the general condition of the campus, Are the facilities like labs, dorms, student union, fitness center, library, studios (if applicable) in good shape. Is there construction or renovation underway?
  • Be aware of the surrounding area and what is available within reasonable walking or biking distance.
  • How articulate is your tour guide in answering questions and representing the school?
  • Note library hours during the year (indicates something about intellectual rigor).

COLLEGE VISITS: What should I ask my tour guide?

  • What happens if you run into trouble with a course? How do you get help?
  • How many large classes have you had since enrolled here? How many people were in each? (Don't settle for average class size statistics.)
  • What is the most commonly encountered teaching style on campus (or in freshman courses)?
  • How would you describe the work load during freshman year?
  • Who is the best teacher or course you have had so far and why?
  • How common is it for students to complete internships? Does the school assist with getting internships? How do you set one up?
  • How did hiring go with the last graduating class? Which employers recruit on campus?
  • How does the school deal with drug and alcohol abuse, security issues, roommate matches and roommate problems.
  • Are health services and counseling available on campus?
  • Where else did you apply? Why did you choose this school?
  • Were there any unexpected surprises, good or bad, about the school after you enrolled?
  • What do you weekends? How many people leave on the weekends? Where do they go?
  • What are the major fun or social events during the year?
  • What are the most significant ways in which this school has affected you?
  • What were the big issues on campus this past year?
  • What advice would you give a freshman coming to their school?

COLLEGE VISITS: What should I ask the admissions personnel?

  • What are the admissions requirements? How do you weigh grades vs. test scores vs. other factors?
  • Have there been changes in selectivity over the past 3-4 years? If so, why?
  • What percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year. (80%+ is what I would expect for a small private school).
  • How is demonstrated interest considered in admissions decisions?
  • Are there any plans for adding or downsizing specific programs?
  • Do you offer Early Decisions? What percent of the first year class is admitted Early Decision?
  • Is the admissions process i“need blind” or “need aware”?
  • Do you meet full need?
  • When do you recommend applying for financial aid?
  • Are their merit scholarships available? What are the deadlines and criteria?

COLLEGE VISITS: What should I expect in an interview?

The interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about a school, specific programs and majors, and how you may stand as far as admissions requirements are concerned. It is an excellent time to explain any unusual situations or weak spots in your educational background.

Colleges are trying to assess the academic program you have followed in high school, the level of rigor at your school, and how you have challenged yourself. They are likely to ask about your favorite courses, your academic strengths and weaknesses, and for evidence that you have taken the most advanced academic options available. They want to know about your performance as refected in grades, GPA, and honors.

They want to learn about your potential for success at their school. This includes talents and abilities beyond grades and test scores. Have you shown sustained interest and involvement in one or more non-academic activity or activities outside of classes? Are you a leader? Will you fit in to the campus culture? Do your personal and intellectual interests, non-academic commitments, thoughts on various issues, and potential contributions to campus life complement the students already there?

COLLEGE VISITS: How do I keep track of all these schools?

Make a checklist before you go of information that is important to you. Identify four or five “must have’s” to use for every school. Take notes and photos during your visit. Keep track of your general feeling when on campus. Did you feel comfortable? Could you picture yourself there? Did the students you meet feel like people who could be your friends?

COLLEGE VISITS: What do I need to do after the visit?

Follow up your visit with a brief thank you note or email to the interviewer.

CHOOSING WHERE TO APPLY: What should I consider?

Program Do the academic programs available and range of options appeal to your interests and talents? Is there depth and breadth of courses in the disciplines in which you are interested? Are there accessible internship opportunities? Is the level of academic challenge appropriate for you?

Performance Do most freshmen return for their sophomore year? What percentage of students graduate within four or five years? Do they find jobs and/or get accepted to graduate schools?

Potential Will you grow personally and intellectually at this school?

Profile Does your academic profile (grades, test scores) match that of students usually admitted to the school?

Personal match Does the academic environment meet your expectations in terms of intellectual rigor and the likely curiosity and drive of your fellow students? Does the learning environment and support services meet your likely needs? Do you feel like you would fit in socially?

Place Does the location and climate meet your desires? Do you want to be in a city/suburb/rural area? If getting home is important to you, how hard or costly will it be to get home? (Keep in mind that sometimes access to an airport is more important than distance from home.)

Participation Are there opportunities to participate in activities that have been important to you? Are there opportunities to explore new interests?

Pocketbook If financial aid is essential, what total loan burden will you carry at graduation? Is this reasonable and/or desirable given your potential income at graduation? If year one (and maybe year two) is financially possible, but just barely, what happens in years three and four? If your parents are divorced, what information will be required from the non-custodial parent and can you get that information? (See the Affording College section.)

CHOOSING WHERE TO APPLY: Does size matter?

Look at a variety of schools before making this decision. The overall enrollment may be less of a factor than the opportunities for community within the college or opportunities for activities beyond campus.

CHOOSING WHERE TO APPLY: How many schools should I apply to?

In general, our college counselor recommends applying to 4-6 schools. If you are the child of a Sewanee employee and are applying for Tuition Exchange, you should apply to 5-8 schools since the program is very competitive. International students are encouraged to apply to 10-12 schools since competition for international admission is so fierce.

CHOOSING WHERE TO APPLY: Do I need a “safety school”?

It is important to have at least one school on your list to which admission is highly likely (a “safety school”), but be sure that it is a school that you would be happy to attend. One or two schools on your list may be schools where the selectivity level makes probability of admission very hard to predict or where you might be in the lower half of the applicant pool (a “reach”), but the remaining schools should be very strong matches between you and colleges admissions profile and you are a competitive applicant with a reasonable chance of being admitted.

College Counseling Calendar

Director of College Counseling Christine Asmussen

Christine Asmussen has been helping SAS students get into the right college for more than 25 years. Before coming to SAS, she held teaching and administrative positions at schools and colleges in New York and Ohio. As college counselor, she travels the nation visiting colleges and universities. Mrs. Asmussen is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) and the Southern Association of College Admissions Counselors (SACAC). She has also assisted stduents in China through Dipont Education in Shanghai.

Mrs. Asmussen holds a B.A. from Mount Saint Mary's College and an M.A. from Columbia University. Her college counseling experience goes beyond the professional, she is the mother of four SAS graduates who attended Dickinson College, Sewanee, Skidmore and Agnes Scott.

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